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Buchanan Opening Statement at Human Resources Subcommittee Hearing on “The Heroin Epidemic and Parental Substance Abuse: Using Evidence and Data to Protect Kids from Harm”

May 18, 2016

WASHINGTON, D.C. – House Ways and Means Human Resources Subcommittee Chairman Vern Buchanan (R-FL) today delivered the following opening statement at a Subcommittee hearing entitled “The Heroin Epidemic and Parental Substance Abuse: Using Evidence and Data to Protect Kids from Harm.”

Remarks as prepared for delivery:

“Welcome to today’s hearing on how the heroin epidemic, and more generally parental substance abuse, is hurting our nation’s children, and how we can use evidence and data to protect more of them from harm.

“The heroin epidemic is a growing crisis affecting children and families across the country, and it’s reaching into our local communities. In 2014, according to the Center for Disease Control and Prevention, more Americans die from drug overdoses than traffic accidents—and over 60 percent of these deaths were from heroin, painkillers and other opioids. In Florida, we know all too well of the consequences. We started to address this epidemic years ago by reducing access to opioids and decreasing their supply. Now its cheaper and just as potent relative—heroin—is taking over. Heroin overdose deaths in Florida increased by 900 percent from 2010 to 2014. Unfortunately, the epicenter for Florida’s crisis is in my district—Manatee County—where more people died from heroin overdoses per capita than any other Florida county in 2014.

“We’ve been talking about the issue of opioid addiction more broadly these last few weeks here in Congress, and I’ve been championing a comprehensive approach to provide more education, prevention, and treatment programs to those in need. I was pleased to see a legislative solution, the Comprehensive Opioid Abuse Reduction Act of 2016, pass the House last week. The Senate has passed a similar bill, and I hope we can quickly resolve our differences so we can help more families.

“While we’ve made great progress, there’s one specific aspect that deserves further attention: the impact parental substance abuse has on families. This crisis has a serious impact on our children, especially those who come into foster care because of parental drug abuse.

“According to data and news reports, parental drug abuse is a leading factor in why children enter foster care. Officials in multiple states have cited opioids, heroin, and other substances as a major reason for the increase in foster care caseloads, and federal data supports this view. In FY 2014, more than 25 percent of those children found to be victims of abuse or neglect had caregivers with drug abuse problems.

“Thankfully, many states, including Florida, are leading efforts to combat this crisis. Today we will learn about some of these approaches, including ways to serve families at home or in other settings so children can remain safely with their parents, or more quickly return home if they must enter foster care. Florida and other states are also using data gleaned from prior child welfare cases to inform their responses to new cases, allowing them to more quickly and effectively respond to prevent tragic consequences.

“In addition to state efforts, the Senate Finance Committee has developed a draft proposal to shift foster care funding into services that will help prevent abuse and neglect. These reforms would encourage states to support programs that better address parental substance abuse and other issues, as well as implement programs that have proven their effectiveness in addressing the needs of parents and their children. Today’s hearing will help us to take a close look at the Senate proposal in hopes of moving bipartisan, bicameral legislation.

“We have taken positive steps forward in the House to address the opioid crisis and substance abuse. Now it’s time to turn to the kids that need help as well. I look forward to hearing more about these efforts today and discussing how we can work together on bipartisan efforts to protect more children from harm, because strong families make a strong community.”